‘Shiv Sena using NCP to play hardball with BJP’

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New Delhi, Nov 5 (IANS) Amid high-octane political drama in Maharashtra and talk of Shiv Sena being in touch with Sharad Pawar, some of the senior Nationalist Congress Party (NCP) leaders see it as a ploy of the Sena to play hardball with ally BJP.
The NCP leaders are, therefore, reluctant to trust the Shiv Sena and are measured in their response to a possible alliance to form the next government.
“Shiv Sena is perhaps using us to bargain hard with BJP. There is no formal offer from them, so far, for forming the government. It is unlikely that the two (BJP and Shiv Sena) would break the alliance,” a NCP leader wishing not to be named told IANS.
On Monday, amid the stalemate between the Shiv Sena and the BJP, NCP supremo Sharad Pawar had an hour-long meeting with Congress interim chief Sonia Gandhi.
Addressing the media after the meeting, Pawar, flanked by Ajit Pawar and Praful Patel, said the “NCP-Congress has been mandated to sit in the opposition. Also, we don’t have numbers.”
“Only those who have numbers should form the government,” he said.
Stating that he is not in the race for the Chief Minister’s post, Pawar said he would meet party colleagues in Mumbai on Tuesday and pay another visit to Sonia Gandhi after that.
On the ongoing BJP-Sena political wrangle, Pawar said the problem between them was serious and it was not just posturing.
The NCP strongman denied any proposal from the Sena leadership and discussions with Sena MP Sanjay Raut. “Any meeting on this issue will only be with Sena chief Uddhav Thackeray,” the NCP chief said.
Most top Congress leaders from Maharashtra have discussed with Sonia Gandhi the unfolding political situation in the state. They have also met Pawar.
After the meeting, Pawar, however, maintained suspense over the issue.
However, soon after the meeting with Pawar and other senior NCP leaders, Sonia Gandhi refused to extend support to the Shiv Sena for forming the state government in Maharashtra, party sources said.
According to sources, the Congress wants Shiv Sena to first announce an end of its alliance with the BJP in the state and at the Centre. The Congress also wants the Shiv Sena to rein in its demands on controversial issues like the construction of the Lord Ram temple in Uttar Pradesh’s Ayodhya and others. While the BJP-Shiv Sena stalemate persists, the latter has reportedly claimed the support of 175 legislators in the 288-member Assembly.
In the recent Assembly elections in Maharashtra, the BJP won 105 seats while the Shiv Sena got 56. The Congress-NCP alliance returned with 98 seats in the polls, out of which 44 seats belong to the Congress while 54 belong to its ally partner.

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